Christmas... already??!!

I know that it is Thanksgiving Break, but I am in full swing Christmas mode.  The second that tree gets pulled out of the closet everything turns red and green in our house.  My family is full of Christmas crazies!!!  But, really, I know that once we go back to school after this break it will be all kinds of insane in the schoolhouse.  I'll be herding wild cats while trying to squeeze in every ounce of Christmas magic in the classroom.  So, it's really important that I get as much done for our family Christmas before November 30th!  I definitely don't want my household to suffer because I'll be in survival mode until December 18th at 12:00!!!

Last year after Christmas I ordered 24 books to continue a family tradition that we started a while back (idea originally from Sarah Cooley).  Well, ordering is the fun part because wrapping IS NOT!  But, I finally powered through and wrapped every last book!
This year I decided to make tags with Bible verses for us to read each day also.  I wanted something to keep us on track and focused on Jesus during the busy holiday season!  You can download those tags HERE.  Now, I'm all set for December 1st!  Rather than making the tags count down, I made them for the actual dates in December.  So, we will open a book and read a verse each night in December!
I also started working on gifts for Joelle's teacher and my coworkers.  I needed a cute tag to tie on those presents, so I made these!  You can download those HERE!
Since Joelle and I have had the week off together, we have completed a few Christmasy activities here and there.  In her words, "Mama, you could just homeschool me and I wouldn't have to change out of my pajamas." Ha!  She absolutely LOVES when I sit down and draw with her, so we did a little Elf Directed Drawing and Application.
We read Memoirs of an Elf together... super cute story!!
We also made elves AND wrote about them because, after all, I am a teacher!!!
You can check out these elf activities HERE!
Now I'm off to eat lots and lots of potatoes... because.... that's my favorite part of Thanksgiving, ha! 

November is coming to a close!

Can you believe that December is almost upon us?  It's hard to grasp the fact that holiday parties are only a month away!  Before you know it we will be in our pajamas, waking up late, using the bathroom multiple times a day, and eating meals at a normal time... well, for two weeks at least, ha!

Katie and I were very intentional while making Rooted in Reading December.  We know you want to maintain structure and learning while still celebrating the holidays in your classroom.  We know you need things to keep your kiddos busy, but you also want cute stuff to hang up in the hallway and in your classroom for the holiday parties.  So, we kept all of that in mind when choosing our books and activities for the month of December!!  Also, we fully understand most of you only have three weeks of plans for the month of December, but we still wanted to give you the option to either use all four books, or pick the three that best fit your class.  Some teachers have done two books during one week, so that's always an option!  Really, it's whatever fits your style and classroom :)

In case you missed it, here are the books that we focus on for December:
Night Tree by Eve Bunting
How to Catch Santa by Jean Reagan

We were also very intentional in the skills that we covered.  We wanted to give you some really great main focuses in both reading and grammar.  In Night Tree we focused on contractions and identifying the main idea.
 In How To Catch Santa you will focus on asking questions, finding textual evidence, parts of a letter, and using time-order transition words.  We also provided a nonfiction reader to compare Christmas and Hanukkah.
 During The Legend of the Poinsettia you will focus on verb tenses and cause/effect.
 While reading Who's That Knocking on Christmas Eve your students will identify and use prepositions, as well as becoming text detectives by looking closely as the author's words and the illustrator's images.  We also included a nonfiction reader about Polar Bears.
And, because we know some of you like to think and plan ahead, we are giving you a little peek of January's books!
Snow Day by Lester L. Laminack
Akiak by Robert J. Blake
Martin Luther King, Jr (this unit will fit with any MLK, Jr biographies/books for young learners)

Rooted in Reading: The Breakdown!

Hey y'all!  I'm here to do a little breakdown of my ELA block now that I have Rooted in Reading guiding a large portion of my day.  First of all, there's some things you should know about ME!

1.  Never, in my entire teaching career, have I taught by a textbook.  I have always used author studies, thematic units, novel studies, or something else to guide my week.  So, this isn't taking the place of a textbook for me because I have never used one.   
2.  I only get 60 minutes a day for my ELA block (GASP!).  Now this DOES NOT include guided reading or all of our writing time.  I do those during different parts of the day.  So, my students are reading lots of different books throughout the day... during guided reading, independent reading, etc.   They are reading books that are on their level during those times.  So, when you hear me talk about Rooted in Reading- that is 60 minutes of my day each day.  
3.  I believe whole-heartedly in making learning fun and engaging.  I want my students to walk away from our day and think "Man, that was a really good day in the classroom!"  BUT, I also have a lot of structure and high expectations in my classroom.  I love that Rooted in Reading adds consistency to what we already have goin' on! 

The books that the units are centered around are my MAIN focus for the week.  However, that is not the only book that I read during our time together.  The focus book is what we read, reread, and revisit throughout the week.  We always read it all the way through at least twice.  I also choose other books that compliment our focus book to read.  So, I'll choose other read alouds that have the same theme, author, or comprehension skill.  When we read Spiders by Gail Gibbons we also read other fiction and nonfiction books about spiders.  When we read I Need My Monster by Amanda Noll, I also used other monster books that fit the theme.  BUT, I always go back and connect it with our main text since that's where our vocabulary and deep comprehension practice happens!
These are lessons to accompany a READ ALOUD... which means I read the book out loud to my class.  I don't have a class set or multiple copies of the book.  It's okay that several of the books are higher-level because we are going through it together.  Also, I think it's so important to expose our students to a wide variety of text levels because they are capable of making deep connections (especially with a lot of guidance!).  I'm looking to build my students' vocabulary, enhance their understanding, and give them the tools they need to attack those higher-level books.

Often times I will put the book under my document camera and project it on the board (especially when rereading it to the class).  This allows my students to see the text while we are reading and discussing.  It also helps them see the details in the illustrations (which is where so much of the story is told!)  With the nonfiction reader in November's Rooted in Reading I was able to make copies so that my class could read it in small groups.
While we are reading the book, we are having a lot of discussions.  I keep the questioning cards close by so that I don't even have to think about the questions I need to ask.  I've noticed that my students are even starting to ask higher-level questions because they are getting so used to hearing them now.  Also, they are thinking about the text so much deeper than before... BUT the only way I know that is because we are constantly stopping to talk about it.  It's NOT just all about me reading the book!  I have to model how to stop and check for comprehension.  I have to model how to ask/answer questions without just thinking about the surface of the text.
During our discussion I will also focus on the vocabulary from the book.  We discuss all of the words, but we don't focus on every single one of them.  I integrate our vocabulary into our discussions, so it's not a separate component :)

What I really love about Rooted in Reading is that grammar is included!  We take one grammar skill and focus on it for the week.  Since I don't have just a ton of ELA time, I normally spend the last portion of my time focusing on grammar.  So, here's how I like to break it down:

Read Aloud and Discussion:  15-20 minutes
Vocab Prompt or Comprehension Activity:  20 minutes
Grammar or Writing Activity:  20 minutes
But, somedays I will take longer for our comprehension skill, and sometimes I need a little more time for grammar.  So, I'm very flexible.  Also, when we do the directed drawing or art component (normally towards the end of the week) I allow between 30-40 minutes for that.  I'll normally pair that with the comprehension check or one of the reading passages since those don't take quite as much time.  Our discussions on Monday and Tuesday are normally much longer, but towards Wednesday and after I can spend more time on the comprehension and grammar activities.  So it will look a little more like this towards the end of the week:
Read Aloud/Discussion:  10 minutes
Vocab Writing:  10 minutes
Comprehension:  20 minutes
Grammar:  20 minutes

Obviously with only 60 minutes of Rooted in Reading time each day, I just can't fit it all in.  I just pick and choose the activities that I think will best benefit my students.  This time of the day we are really focusing on deepening our comprehension and vocabulary rather than being able to read the text independently.  I think it's important that you are reading the books TO the students because most students aren't capable of making deep and thoughtful connections without you guiding their conversations.  It's a chance for you to go much deeper than they are used to doing on their own.  Then, that will translate into their independent reading time.  A few more questions answered:

*I don't really do a whole lot of literacy stations anymore.  I just don't have the time like I did a few years ago.  I'll use the stations I have for early finisher activities and during guided reading groups.

*Also, I don't have a time set apart for Daily Five anymore either.  Unfortunately, starting last  year, I just couldn't give up anymore of my 60 minute ELA block.  However, my students do components of the Daily Five in the morning and when they are finished working.

*My guided reading time is completely set apart from Rooted in Reading.  We work on specific skills that those students need during that time.  This ensures that my students are reading on THEIR level each week.  

*If you have to follow the textbook per district or campus guidelines, I'm not 100% sure how Rooted in Reading would work for you because I don't know how much/little you have to do with your reading adoption.  It also depends on how much ELA time you have each day.  I'm sure you have more than 60 minutes unless you are a dual language teacher like me :)

*I don't send any portion of Rooted in Reading for homework.

*I normally take a grade on the comprehension OR vocabulary check, a reading passage, and a grammar activity each week.  I don't grade their vocabulary quick writes or their comprehension flap-ups.  I do check those, but do not assign a numerical grade to those!

Do you have any other questions?  I'll continue adding to this post as things come up :)

The Rough Face Girl

Last week we dug deep into The Rough Face Girl by Rafe Martin.  We learned a lot throughout the unit, but our main focus was identifying/using adjectives and comparing different versions of a folktale.  My students really enjoyed this book!
We also enjoyed using this video as our re-read!

To jump start our adjective lessons we described the main character.  I was very impressed at the adjectives they came up with on day one!
 Later in the week we used other grammar activities from Rooted in Reading.  A lot of the activities involved describing characters so it was an easy way to integrate grammar and reading :)
Here are some adjective videos we also used to enhance our learning!

Later in the week we compared The Rough Face Girl to Cinderella.  I loved seeing the connections that my students were making!  After reading a few other versions, my students wrote letters to The Fairy Godmother asking her to grant them some wishes.  Some of these letters were hilarious!
 We revisited our main read aloud later in the week so that we could enjoy a directed drawing!  For the most part my students really surprised me with their details!  
We had a little extra time on Friday, so I displayed this question on the board.
My students answered the question in their spiral.  Then, we watched a short video that I found online (but can't find it any longer!) and read the wigwam passage that is in Rooted in Reading.  After we learned a little more about wigwams I gave my students an opportunity to verbally change their minds.  It was really interesting to see their opinions change as they learned more and more!!!  My boys decided that they would love it because they would never have to bathe, ha!  My girls wanted to build really large wigwams so that their cousins could come for a visit :)
I am just thrilled to pieces with our language arts block each day.  I'm going to be back to answer questions about what a day in language arts looks like for me.  So, if you have any questions please let me know below!

Hairy Money and The Coin Gang!

Well, good evening, friends!  It's November.  That's just crazy talk right there!!!  We started counting coins last week, so I thought I'd give y'all a little math update :)

To get us going we did a quick brainstorm to show what we already knew about coins.  I had time for NOTHING fancy, so this is whatcha get!
We sorted characteristics of the coins using this little flapbook...
If you are looking for some good tunes, my students eat these up!!!

 And, then it was time to start counting that money up!  Sometimes I teach counting money with hairy money and sometimes I don't.  It just depends on the kids I have and what I think they need.  I like to teach grouping coins together to add easier, as well as ordering money from greatest to least.  This year I knew that hairy money was going to be a lifesaver, so I just jumped right on in.  Now, I did NOT create this idea, but I will explain it!

Each hair stands for 5.  Since the quarter has 5 groups of 5, it gets five hairs.  You can give a big spill about how the presidents had a lot of hair (and sometimes even fake hair!) and really play it up... the kids get a kick out of it :))).  The dime gets two hairs since it has 2 groups of 5.  And, the nickel... although easily confused with the quarter...only gets one hair because it's just one group of 5!  OH, and that penny.  He gets a mole instead of a hair because we can't count him by fives.  We have to stop and count on by ones.  Then, all your students have to do is count by fives.  If they can't count by fives then this is really difficult, BUT so is telling time, and pretty much everything else in life, ha!

You can right click the image below and save it as an image to your computer.
After introducing hairy money I called my students back one at a time so that they could show me what they learned.  I would say about 90% of my class got it after one lesson!
 To add a little fun, I decided we needed to incorporate a reader's theatre into our money unit.  I made up a little play about students that are having trouble counting coins.  The Coin Gang comes in and saves the day!  They each tell about themselves and what makes them unique :)  This has been added to my "It's All About The Money" unit!
 Today my friends played Spin and Total with my differentiated coin spinners.  That was a lot of fun also!  This activity is also in my money unit.
While I still have a few students who are having trouble counting coins, most of my friends have successfully caught on!  Next week we start regrouping, so I may be drowning in my sorrows over the next few weeks, ha!  If you don't hear from me then chances are I'm napping or overeating from the stress of regrouping ;)

I Need My Monster

I'm so sad to see October go (other than the fact that tomorrow is Halloween, this week has been crazy, and I'm fairly certain that my kids eat candy for all three meals of the day!!)...we did have such a great time in reading this month!!!

This week we focused on "I Need My Monster" by Amanda Noll.  My kids absolutely LOVED this book!!!  We described both the monsters and Ethan from the story...
We also did lots of reading responses in our spirals!  In the third picture you will see how my students created their own monster for Ethan.  They loved doing that!
In grammar we focused on writing sentences correctly with common and proper nouns.  This was a great week of review for my kiddos!
I get asked a lot "Do you read any other books while doing Rooted in Reading throughout the week?"  And, the answer is YES!  While the book included in the unit is our main resource that we revisit daily, I also like to read books that fit with the theme or comprehension skill.  "Welcome to Monster Town" was a great fit because it is all about monsters and has lots of proper nouns!  Sidenote- I do NOT use a reading curriculum or textbook in my class.  I also get asked that A LOT!!!
We also watched Go Away Big Green Monster just for fun!
At the end of the week we made our very own monsters!  I love how they turned out :)
Doing things like this help to really get my kids motivated and engaged in what we are doing!  I let them make their monsters however they wanted and boy did that just thrill them to pieces!  It was also just what they needed to encourage writing in complete sentences :)
You can get Rooted in Reading and everything else in my shop for 20% off until Halloween at midnight!  Have a wonderful weekend!
Thanks to Anna for making the graphic!


This is going to be a QUICK post because I am all kinds of #teachertired this week.  It may have something to do with finishing THIS project, but it was well worth the work!

Oh my stars, my students absolutely LOVED reading Crankenstein this week!  They just adore this ill-tempered little fella!  I'm certain it's because we can all relate :)
 Today we focused on describing Crankenstein as a class.  They did a great job of giving me adjectives and justifying them with evidence from the text!
 Then, it was time to work on our Crankenstein projects!  I overheard a sweet little girl say, "I love when she teaches us how to draw.  It's one of my favorite things we do in class.  I mean, pretty much she's like our art teacher!" Ha!  #winning!
 I had my students highlight their capitals and punctuation marks because we are getting all kinds of LAZY in my classroom!  This really helps them make sure their sentences are complete!!!

And, that is THAT!  You can find this activity plus tons more HERE.  And, you can find November activities HERE!